What does it take for a band to hit the big time? Hard work, luck, ambition, brains, money, rabid fans, a solid music catalog, television appearances, luscious beards?
Denton's Seryn, the headliner for CultureMap's first anniversary party October 10, has some of that stuff right now. Vocalist/guitarist Jenny Moscoso can't have one of those things without hormone injections. That could be asking too much. Everything else cannot be ruled out. Maybe, just maybe, big times are around the corner.
The six-member group is putting the finishing touches on its second album for release next year — a follow-up to their 2011 debut, This Is Where We Are. Also in 2014, an Austin filmmaker plans to release a Seryn documentary called A Canvas of Sound.
If a bluegrass/folk band and gospel choir got married, their kid would be Seryn.
"We’re really looking to blow it out next year," said guitarist and singer Nathan James Allen.
If you've seen them live, you know they can blow it out performance-wise. If a bluegrass/folk band and gospel choir got married, their kid would be Seryn. And the kid would play a ukulele. And an accordion. And a trumpet. And a banjo. And an electric guitar. And a xylophone. And the drums. And a kalimba.
What’s a kalimba? I don’t know; the kid asked for one for Christmas. Google it. Thumb piano, thank you. Kalimba is the fancy name for that.
Since its formation in 2009, Seryn has toiled. This year, that work earned them West Coast tour dates with the Polyphonic Spree. An invite to South by Southwest. Plus more shows than ever before, and in places they've never played.
Not just cities. Some outfit in in Avon, Colorado, said, "Let's cram some bands in a Vail Valley ski gondola and record it." Okay, let’s applaud that, because not everyone gets invited to bring the house down in a gondola, or bring the gondola down. Ah, wait. Let’s make sure that stays in the land of idioms. (See video above.)
"I think this is it," Allen says of the group’s fortune. "This is the time when it’s either going to happen or it won’t. But I don’t know. If I were going to start a band right now, the things I would be thinking about doing would be like, get on Letterman, get a big corporate sponsor and a picture of you with logo in the bottom corner, get everyone talking about you.
Singer Nathan James Allen compares the relationship between band and crowd to a drug deal. "Except the drug dealer is getting higher than his customer,” he says.
"When does all that happen? Well, it happens when you have a new record. It’s this weird deal that everything starts coming together for people only when you have a new album to put out."
That didn't happen when Seryn's first album came out. But that’s okay. Be patient, right? Recording the second album was a grind compared to the first.
"It took a while to finally do," he says. "We had to deal with a lot of internal stuff between everyone in the band, with group dynamics that we hadn’t faced before. In order to get to that second record, it took a long time for us to bring something new to the table. But now that we’ve recorded it, we’re already stoked to start the third one."
The group rehearses in Argyle. Allen used to fret about everyone being on time for practices. Now everyone knows to just roll in earlier than the planned time, and they start when they start. They’re also mellower on the road.
"It used to be, every time you go on tour, it’s like you’re going to see a movie you’ve been dying to see for a while," he says. "Everyone says, 'Man, this movie is going to be freaking incredible,' and you’re so stoked. Then you watch the movie, and afterward you realize you weren’t expecting it to be that sad or that loud or that serious.
"In the past, when we go on tour we’d expect a big take-off, and it starts off great and doesn’t let up until it’s over," he says. "But the reality is that it goes up and down, and you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I think we were kind of surprised about that. It’s the same when we play. We’ll play great one night and then one time you’re just not going to be on.
"This last time we went on tour, we were expecting the ups and downs. Going on tour will wear you out, but secretly everyone in the band loves it."
Openly, everyone in the crowd loves the band. At least it's nice to think so. Maybe it’s not just love but an enslaving demand to be entertained. Allen compares the relationship between band and crowd to a drug deal.
"Except the drug dealer is getting higher than his customer,” he says. “When you’re playing for someone, and even if it’s just 100 people or even 20 people, if you perform the best you can and put all the love you can into it, and all the people clap, it’s just an amazing feeling.
"It’s like, 'We've got music for you, and all we what we want in return is cheering and applause.' When you’re playing and you look into the crowd and think, I don’t even know any of these people, that’s what makes it all worth it."